Words matter, writing matters and that mission is alive and well at Medium. Paul and Rich talk to Head of Product, Michael Sippey to find out more about making money in publishing, the importance of good content and his three-step approach to product management.
Are we building the dystopian future we’re afraid of?: This week Paul Ford and Rich Ziade talk about Amazon, Facebook and other big-tech companies that have changed our basic human interactions. We delve into the commoditization of our feelings, valuing efficiency over communication, and the despair that comes from seeing a death announcement on social media (especially when it’s bumped up against a recipe for a chocolate soufflé).
For decades, startups have tried to unseat the mighty spreadsheet, with no success. Does Airtable, a database for the web, have what it takes? And what did it take to make Airtable? Paul Ford and Rich Ziade talk to Airtable co-found Andrew Ofstad to find out.
Is Facebook a monopoly? This week Paul and Rich tackle the 2-billion-user elephant in the room and go back and forth on two big questions: whether Facebook violates antitrust laws and should be broken up, and how the platform (or its regulators) can solve its rampant fake news problem. Topics covered include what “breaking up” Facebook would even look like, how the platform might verify news sources, separating news from satire, and the general public’s ambivalence about privacy and security.
From the front lines of the podcast boom: this week Paul and Rich talk to Matt Lieber, co-founder of Gimlet Media, one of the most successful podcast studios in the industry. Topics covered include the company’s origin (and the podcast that chronicled its founding), how Gimlet recruits and trains its editors, the trajectory of the medium, why you shouldn’t play favorites amongst your employees, and how Matt has been re-cast as a sleazy door-to-door salesman in an upcoming ABC comedy produced, directed by, and starring Zach Braff.
Is there a way to fix LinkedIn? This week Paul and Rich return one of their favorite hate-topics: LinkedIn is, in Paul’s words, “a remarkable affront to everything that we care about and believe in.” They discuss “human spam,” various UX gripes with the platform, Paul’s methods for “killing the virus” to eliminate certain types of social connectors, resumes, and various suggestions for improving the product—including a $100 offer to anyone who can build a Chrome extension to implement their ideas.
From TV writing to scriptwriting software: this week Paul and Rich talk to Rob Dubbin, former writer and producer for The Colbert Report and The Late Show and current CEO of Scripto. They discuss Scripto’s creation and the special workflow challenges coordinating a late-night show, animal welfare, transitioning from writing to tech, Bluetooth, Google Wave, and more.
How do you pull the plug on a product people love? This week Paul and Rich talk about good and bad ways to shut a digital product, from giving people a path to export their data (good) to writing a blog post entitled “Our Incredible Journey” (bad) (very, very bad). Topics discussed include AOL Instant Messenger (RIP), communities around software, Rich’s experiences shutting Readability, and Paul’s experience pinpointing the fundamental ethos of the web: “Why wasn’t I consulted?”
Building a community for developers: this week Paul and Gina talk to Jenn Schiffer, community engineer at Fog Creek’s Glitch, a platform for developers to write, share, and remix code that is, in Jenn’s words, helping to “lower the barriers for developers to build great things.” Topics discussed include development frameworks, how coding is taught, cultures of harassment online and in the tech world, and the (sort of mindblowing!) way a bloomin’ onion is made.
New technologies vs buzzwords: this week Paul and Rich discuss the challenge of sifting through trends in the technology world—and how they help clients separate what they need from what they think they need. Topics discussed include SOAP, machine learning, Paul’s love of the words “matrix” and “vector,” React, blockchain, the iPhone X “notch,” and, most importantly, paddleboarding.
Building digital tools for active citizenship: this week Paul and Rich talk to Glenn Brown, the chief digital officer at the Obama Foundation. The conversation works through each major stop in his career, from Harvard Law (including the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society) to Creative Commons to Google and YouTube to Twitter to his current role. Topics covered include the mission of the Obama Foundation, copyright and fair use, what “product counsel” does at a place like Google, the power of livestreaming, and Rich’s fantasy vision of a Miami courtroom.
“The bad times, as a manager, are easier than the good times”: this week Paul and Rich discuss a “good problem to have”—managing growth as demand for your work grows. They talk about their personal experiences at Postlight before offering up a series of tips for managing growth, including not taking on too much while still not compromising on the approach and philosophy that got you there.
New horizons in digital media: this week Paul and Rich talk to Anna Holmes, the founder of Jezebel and current SVP of Editorial at First Look Media, where she recently launched the visual storytelling site Topic.com. They discuss her early magazine career, the rise of online media, comment sections vs social media conversations, and what it's like to run a more reflective site in a world of reactive takes.
How does Postlight tackle security challenges? This week Paul and Rich begin the episode with takeaways from the Apple iPhone announcement (which they had not yet heard at the time of recording) before diving into a wide-ranging discussion on digital security, from personal worries to the Equifax breach to the steps they take as a company to ensure clients’ data safety. They then tell the story of the first $20 Postlight ever made—a tale about infidelity, large datasets, AshleyMadison.com, and a trio of guys who were definitely up to no good.
The challenges of product management at scale: this week Paul and Rich talk to Oren Mor, a head of product at Goldman Sachs and a former product manager at Google. They discuss his entry into the industry, making the technology behind Microsoft’s Kinect, his pivot to finance, and his return to tech at Google, where he spent years shipping ad products. They then go deep into the online advertising world, including ethical concerns around ad placements and the new taxonomies that’s creating on the web.
What makes a good meeting? This week Paul and Rich set out to break down everyone’s least-favorite part of the workday—the meeting—but they wind up breaking down complicated office management dynamics along the way. They do offer concrete tips and strategies, from how to keep your head down early in your career to keeping the agenda focused and specific to the beauty of ending a meeting early.
How design came to drive business: this week Paul and Rich talk about the evolution of the role of design in the tech industry, from Microsoft’s early dominance—privileging function over form—to Apple’s ascendency in the past decade, where user-centered design, particularly on mobile, has led to their success. Topics discussed include the McKinsey consultants, the early history of Apple, the jumble of titles and roles in the digital design world, and Rich’s perpetual hatred of Apple’s chief design officer, Jony Ive.
Understanding the fundamentals of public speaking: this week Paul and Rich talk to Bill Smartt, a coach who believes that everyone can improve their speaking skills. They break down his three big tips—speak up, slow down, and make eye contact—and discuss (and practice!) breathing exercises that can help when stagefright kicks in. They also discuss his origin story, which involves some poorly-placed dry ice at a Nashville Halloween party.
Remote working, iPhone cases, and Spotify’s UX: this week Paul and Rich tackle three very disparate reader questions. In the first, they outline Postlight’s remote working culture and the tools they use—most notably, Slack—to help everyone stay on the same page. Next, they talk about the iPhone as a design object—and our desire to immediately cover it up with a case. And finally, they go in on Spotify’s clunky user interface when asked: if Spotify was your client, how would you fix it?
Changing the podcast user experience: with Paul away, Rich is joined by Postlight’s new partner, Gina Trapani, for a conversation with developer Leah Culver. They discuss her career trajectory, from embracing computer science in college to moving Silicon Valley to founding startups Pownce and Convore to becoming an engineer at Dropbox. They then discuss her newest venture, Breaker, an “end-to-end podcast company,” and the podcast space in general, from the fractured digital spaces for podcast listeners to Apple’s recent announcement to share user data with creators.
Understanding an organization’s older technology systems: this week Paul and Rich discuss legacy software and the work cultures around them. Topics discussed include how companies put systems in place and how they become unworkable, resistance to change, clashes between engineering departments and broader company culture, and tips for dealing with the social dynamics when dealing with—and trying to change—legacy software and systems.
The history and the future of CSS: this week Paul and Rich talk to Eric Meyer, an expert on HTML and CSS for more than two decades, about web design and standards. Touching on both basic and more technical aspects of CSS, topics covered include the development of the style sheet language, the incompatibility of early web browsers, accessibility (or lack thereof) in modern web design, and, of course, what the W3C CSS working group’s after-parties are like.
The iPhone at 10: this week Paul and Rich reflect on the iPhone’s 10-year anniversary, discussing everything from Steve Jobs to Apple’s evolution to the future of smartphones to how Jony Ive uses a microwave. Then they debut a new segment where they complain about things that frustrate them; this week, they get out all their feelings about kombucha, the always-broken Google Inbox, and Adobe’s Creative Cloud.
Helping veterans enter the tech world: this week Paul and Rich talk to Jerome Hardaway, a veteran who became a programmer before founding Vets Who Code, a nonprofit that helps other veterans do the same. They discuss the challenges he faced reentering civilian life at the height of the Great Recession, how Vets Who Code was born, the specific assets vets bring to programming and the tech world, and how they overcome the challenges and stereotypes they face.
From Amazon to Russian watches: this week Paul and Rich start by trying to rationalize Amazon’s recent acquisition of Whole Foods, a conversation summed up by Paul as, “You can Occam's Razor this bad boy down.” They move on to Amazon’s strategy at large, the departure of Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, whether our individual actions can ever have any broader effect on the planet, and the harrowing saga of the time Rich tried to buy a watch from a shady Russian website.